I went on a tour this weekend at the world's largest nuclear plant in Kashiwazaki Kariwa in Niigata prefecture, western Japan. It has seven nuclear reactors that are currently all undergoing repairs after the massive earthquake in July, 2007. The PR from Tepco, the electricity company that runs the plant, was confusing at first, and it is clear that damage was more severe than initially reported.
At the visitor center, I was surprised to see a lot of families with young children. The displays ranged from very technical to simply wonderful - for toddlers. There were activities and playrooms, as well as staff clearly skilled at dealing with all kinds of questions. But it was not until the bus ride that the guide started explaining about the serious damage to the seven reactors.
We were not allowed to leave the bus as we drove past each of the seven huge concrete buildings, and the guide noted that the office complex had been so damaged that staff now worked from a prefab building that had quickly been erected. Japan's children learns how to deal with earthquakes in many ways, but this tour really made me wonder if anyone can ever be sufficiently prepared for a major nuclear power plant disaster. A better lesson, of course, would be to teach energy conservation and alternative, renewable power production to the next generation.
More photos and info below the fold.
If you haven't visited a nuclear power plant, I think you are missing out on an important part of contemporary culture. They provide lessons in quantum physics, clever engineering, safety-first standards (ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 are applied at Kashiwazaki Kariwa) while giving insights into human folly.
This cute mascot at this particular power plant is called Ecoron. Welcome signs use his (her?) image and visitors can take the Ecoron Quiz and win prices (we won cotton handkerchiefs).
Meanwhile, the visitor center also displays pride in the fact that this is the world's largest nuclear power plant. I don't mind if some people think nuclear power is worth to be called "eco" but at least they need to come clean (pun intended) on the horrors of radiation damage and the difficulties with ensuring long-term disposal of the spent nuclear fuel.
KK no Kai, the Group of Concerned Scientists and Engineers Calling for the Closure of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant have held a second seminar this summer in Kobe to debate the problems. Discussion of the earthquake and the damage is continuing within the central government's investigation committee and Niigata Prefecture's two investigation committees, but answers are proving very difficult to find, notes Citizen's Nuclear Information Center. This is why educating kids about nuclear power is so difficult - even adults disagree on almost all of the details.
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp